Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Riverfront of Today and Yesterday

I know the New Albany riverfront as a place where joggers roam, skateboarders litter and an amphitheatre sits silently. I also know it had a life before the flood wall severed it from the day to day life of New Albany. New Albany was a river town. And nobody can take us back to that time and set the scene of river town life like Mark Twain.

From Life on the Mississippi, Chapter 6, page 30-31

“After all these years I can picture that old time to myself now, just as it was then; the white town was drowsing in the sunshine of a summer’s morning; the streets empty, or pretty nearly so; one or two clerks sitting in front of the Water Street stores, with their split-bottomed chairs tilted back against the wall, chins on breast, hats slouched over their faces, asleep-with shingle shavings enough around to show what broke them down; a sow and a litter of pigs loafing along the sidewalk, doing a good business in watermelon rinds and seeds; two or three lonely little freight piles scattered about the levee; a pile of skids on the slope of the stone-paved wharf, and the fragrant town drunkard asleep in the shadow of them; two or three wood flats at the head of the wharf, but nobody to listen to the peaceful lapping of the wavelets against them…"
He wasn’t writing about New Albany, but he could have been. The following image, provided by the Floyd County Historical Society, is an appropriate companion to the marvelously crafted description of Mr. Twain.
You’d probably think that physical evidence of that time in New Albany would be long gone. You’d be wrong. Fellow shutterbug Stephen Pacciano snapped the below images during a recent drought. The first is of our own stone-paved wharf and the second of a still intact mooring ring awaiting the next steamboat to tie off.

Thank you Stephen. I will look at the riverfront with a new appreciation thanks to these material connections with the past.

1 comment:

Courtney Paris said...

Nice captures!